In Australia, while white racist attitude is recognised and condemned, the inherent racism from ethnic minorities is often ignored.
I’ve been working on a series of vignettes that explore this issue. These vignettes follow the lives of the Trans, a fictional Vietnamese family, scrutinising the patriarch Mr Tran in particular. Mr Tran has little understanding of his own racism, happily bagging Koreans, Indians, and other ethnic minorities, while tolerating ‘Chink’ slurs thrown at him by his predominantly white neighbourhood.
However after recent racial attacks and the aftermath (international condemnation, Flinders Street Station protests, and Kevin Rudd’s declaration that Australia is not a racist country), I feared that my work would be construed as a) intolerably racist, and b) unpublishable.
For the next day or so, I debated on shelving the project or at least toning down the racism within it, until I read an article by Indian national Akash Arora, ‘Don’t believe the media hype: racism is often a two-way street’:
In fact, I have encountered the worst form of discrimination, and most varieties of it, in my own country, India, where people are discriminated against on the basis of almost every difference: race, cast, class, gender and sexual orientation. So it is indeed puzzling that news about Australia being racist is reaching epic proportions in countries that can hardly claim to be any better. After all, charity begins at home. And so should social reform.
I moved to Sydney as an international student in 2003 and found racism lurking more in the immigrants’ psyches than on the streets. A fellow Indian student at the University of Technology, Sydney, once told me he preferred to live a 50-minute train trip from the campus in Harris Park than in the student accommodation provided (for the same price) right next to the campus. When I asked why, he promptly replied: “Because Harris Park has Indian neighbourhood, Indian cinemas, Indian restaurants, Indian shops …” Just one question popped to my mind. Why did he move to Sydney if he didn’t want the Australian way of life?
The problem, in fact, starts here. Many immigrants resist integrating into mainstream Australia. They want the benefits and lifestyle of a Western nation, but without blending with its current.
Over a period of time this creates a cultural rift, first in their lives and then in their minds, which, in the absence of any logical definition, they term “racism”. (The Age, 2 June 2009)
‘Yes, yes, and yes,’ I thought. His article confirmed my notions of ethnic minority hypocrisy. Ethnic minorities are racist too, and they/we don’t realise it. This is an issue that needs highlighting. Someone has got to write about this, especially after what has happened recently around Melbourne and Australia. If we’re going to talk about racism, let’s talk about the universality of racism because it’s certainly not a trait specific to one race. To think such would be racist.
So, I guess Mr Tran is back on track.